God requires Submission and Obedience
not as punishment
but to set us free.
When we realize God has a will for us, and that we are being called to some obedience.
When we finally find the strength to obey God's will.
Submission is hard. Submission is perhaps the first step. Acknowledging our own weakness, seeking our true strength. First, we must acknowledge that our own skills, brains, expertise, strength, money, good looks, nice clothes and other worldly measures are nothing. Our faith in ourselves must be re-learned as faith in God, knowing in a deep way that our seeming strengths and so-called abilities are nothing compared to God. I was never more miserable than when I thought I was in control and believed that my abilities were all I could bring to bear in any situation. Now I am free. I do not seek to control. I seek to submit, to obey, to do God's will with all the love I can muster.
The world can only recognize the efforts of individuals. We can have many successes and feel competent, powerful, and in control. Our experiences can leave us unable to acknowledge God's power. We are reinforced in believing our activities and our abilities have brought about whatever good there is in our world. Yet these endeavors, if outside of the Spirit, will come to nothing. They will be built upon a sandy foundation and will not stand.
We must learn our True Worth, our True Strength, that we owe our allegiance to God and God alone. We must learn to be humbly in submission to God and acknowledge that he knows better for us than we can know for ourselves. It is always true that God's plans for us are greater than any plans we can concoct on our own. He has more love for us and more love for the world than we are capable of mustering. Submitting to his will is better for us and better for the world, everything in their proper place in the Gospel Order. However, each new leap of faith he requires has always left me feeling bereft of something I believed I most wanted in this world. Christ is carefully teaching me to let them go, and when I am finally able to meet the Grace of this gift with submission, I always receive more real treasure than I knew existed. God is great and loving. And yet still, submission is always hard. The thing that gets between me and God, that for me is sin, this sin is what Christ shows me, and it is through Christ that I find my redemption. He shows me how to root the sin out, and to be free of it.
So we acknowledge we must submit, and then it follows that we must be obedient. Obedience is hard. God gives us our Measure, and we must strive with that Measure. God never asks for the impossible, but he always asks for what we least want to give. Having earned some recognition in the world for being a clever girl, one of the things I most feared was to appear foolish. Then God offered me my first real Measure of the Truth: that I must wear plain dress, become a Quaker, become a Christian. I can say the idea of becoming a Quaker was no difficulty, but the plain dress and the Christianity went against my prideful ways. How in the world do I make adopting plain dress appear wise? I couldn't. I adopted it anyway, because I wanted to please God, now that I knew him, and I knew nothing else to do but to trust him. I had finally learned through painful experience that all my striving was for nothing, and that if I wanted Peace, and I did, then I must submit to the greater wisdom of God and obey.
I did not like Christianity or Christians. I believed them to be backward, hypocritical, un-loving people. So it was a great humbling for God to make me a Christian, and a great blessing. Against my own will and after years of great willfulness, I yet have my salvation through Jesus Christ, because God is good and merciful. No matter how far from The Path we stray, he offers us openings, as many openings as it will take, to return us to living in Right Order. My baptism was by the Holy Spirit, and it was not the end of my path as a Christian, but it was the beginning. Every day I learn more of what it means to be a Christian in this world, in my life, in this moment.
From The Journal of Ann Branson, an American Quaker minister (1807-1891):
But we must come in the obedience of faith-we must follow the leadings and teachings of the Holy Spirit, whilst favored with the visitation of Divine mercy, the mercy of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour, if we become heirs of eternal salvation. Christ Jesus came not into the world to suffer and to die for us, to save us in our sins, but from our sins. We must experience the refining, cleansing operation of his baptism-the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, purging the temple of our hearts from all that his righteous controversy is with, before He will deign to own us before his Father and the holy angels.
Here is Elizabeth Stirredge's testimony to bearing the burden of a required obedience she did not want to submit to, not out of pride, but out of not valuing herself, and the gifts God had given her, enough. From her Strength in Weakness Manifest.
And now, my dear children, some of these things you know, your eyes have seen this when you were young and tender in the beginning of your days; and though but young and tender, yet the Lord kept you from the fear of men. And in this time of great exercise, there fell upon me another greater exercise and travail of spirit, which seemed so strange and so wonderful, that I could not believe that ever the Lord would require such a service of me, that was so weak and contemptible, so unfit and unlikely, my understanding but shallow, and my capacity but mean, and very low and dejected in my own eyes; and looking so much at my insufficiency, made me to strive so much against it; crying oftentimes within myself, 'Surely this is something to ensnare me, for the Lord does not require such things of me; seeing there are so many wise and good men that are more honourable, and fitter for such service than I; Oh Lord! remove it far from me, and require any thing else of me, that I can better perform.'
Thus did I reason and strive against it, till my sorrow was so great that I knew not whether ever the Lord would accept of me again. Then did I cry unto the Lord again, and again; 'Lord, if thou hast found me worthy, make my way plain before me, and I will follow thee; for, Lord, thou knowest that I would not willingly offend thee.' But for fear that it should be required of me to go to the great men of the earth, I knowing myself to be of such a weak capacity, I did not think that the Lord would make choice of such a contemptible instrument as I to leave my habitation, and tender children, that were young and tender, to go to king Charles, which was an hundred miles from my habitation, and with such a plain testimony as the Lord did require of me; which made me go bowed down many months under the exercise of it, and oftentimes strove against it; but I could get no rest, but in giving up to obey the Lord in all things that he requires of me; and though it seemed hard and strange unto me, yet the Lord made hard things easy, according to his promise unto me, when I was going from my tender children, and knew not but that my life might have been required for my testimony, it was so plain; and when I looked upon my children, my bowels yearned toward them. The word that run through me was, 'If thou canst believe, thou shalt see all things accomplished, and thou shalt return in peace, and thy reward shall be with thee.' And for ever blessed be the name and power of the Lord, that sustained me in my journey, and gave me strength to do his will, and afforded me his living presence to accompany me, which is the greatest comfort that ever can be enjoyed; and this was my testimony to king Charles II. in the 11th month of the year 1670.
Tools for Daily Guidance in the Truth and the Way
- The Fruit of the Spirit as Guiding Principle.
- The Greatest of these is Love.
- The Truth of God's Great and Worthy Actions in this world begin in thee.
- God's Will Can be Known and we are Capable of Being Obedient.
- The Difficulties of Submission and Obedience.
- Giving Credit Where Credit is Due.
- Needful and Necessary.
- Our Moral Compass.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.